Qualifications to Work with Young Athletes


Young Athletes and the qualifications needed to train them

I started my career by training nothing but Olympic Champions, National Team Competitors and Professionals Athletes.


But what I came to realize is that none of those experiences made me qualified to train young athletes.  Neither would I be qualified if I had an Olympic Medal around my neck or a Super Bowl ring on my index finger.


We constantly mistake ‘big names’ or ‘big credentials’ as qualified.


Let me put it this way… The most impressive and decorated mathematician at NASA is a literal genius with the topic of math, but would you really think them qualified and ideal to teach your 7 year old son how to multiply?


Success in sport or at the highest level of Coaching doesn’t mean that one is suited to understand and be fluent in the unique sciences of youth sports training.  Seek experience and education pertaining to the specialty at hand – not glitz and glamour.


Please, comment below… We truly want to hear your thoughts on this!


– the IYCA Team


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19 Responses

  1. Brendan Murray says:

    I agree with you, Brian.

    Many top class students finish their education, with very good results and high qualifications.

    But they may have very little experience of the real world.
    Not only is it a requirement to have a genuine love of working with children, patience, patience, and more patience, but you also find out that one of the biggest problems you face, to to undo the damage caused by parents with un-realistic expectations, plus old-style over-zealous and mainly ignorant coaches.

  2. jed says:

    Brendan : you hit the nail on the head.”to undo the damage caused by parents with un-realistic expectations, plus old-style over-zealous and mainly ignorant coaches.”
    I train young basketball players and have for 25 years. The un-qualified coaches probably are close to 90 % of the total coaches. It is just a paycheck to them or their son or daughter is on the team.,
    Many of these coaches cause stress fractures, knee problems, horrible fundamentals and the list goes on and on.

  3. sav says:

    great blog, at this time I am dealing with a ignorant coach that thinks beating the kids down is the way you condition and quite frankly I cannot be part of that

  4. Barrie J says:

    I have never trained an Olympic Champion but some of the kids have probably dreamed of being one. For all the kids I coach I just wish the very best for them. If that means they reach the top of their sport or simply have a happy family life and their own kids some day, then I only want for their time with me to be a positive influence. It is equally rewarding to have an athlete you have coached remember you in the street and stop and chat, as well as seeing another become a professional athlete.

    I don’t think that parents willingly put unrealistic expectations on their children. Most love their kids and only want the best for them.
    Society looks for a quick fix for everything nowadays. There are shortcuts/ads placed in front of you all the time and the fear of missing out on an opportunity could also be a driving force behind the ill fated notion of trying to fast track kids to stardom. It’s just the world we live in and one in which we can maybe change a little.

    I always challenge myself to be better so that the kids, whose parents entrust me with, will learn, excell, grow, and feel good about themselves.

    I am thankful for a weekend I spent at a seminar at the Millenium Institute a few years ago. It has not only changed my life but many local kids as well. The support that the IYCA can give from many miles away is tremendous.

    Education is paramount but experience is the tool that tells you when and how to use your knowledge.

  5. Kelvin says:

    I totally agree. Once can have all the degree and most impressed certifications in the world, yet without field experience they mean nothing. Once has to know how to reach people, teach people and become mentors. It takes an expert with field experience to know how to treat children and people and undo what parents and unaware coaches implement. My love to train and train young persons, teenagers and young adults has been elevated. More so, I just purchased the certification and I fill it will just take the knowledge and experience to higher heights.

  6. Hey Brian,

    As always, I definitely agree with u on this!

    I don’t have a degree like a lot of coaches out there, but no one will beat me with passion and the determination to learn everything possible to make my players better.




  7. Mike says:

    Experience, communication, education and passion carry more weight than letters behind someone’s name.
    Titles are nice to have and so are degrees and diplomas and sometimes you need them to get a foot in the door.

    As much as I like to long term development I have to be open to the quick fix ( 4-8 speed training ) because is a reality. And must do what is best for the athlete given the circumstances.


  8. Brandon says:

    I couldn’t agree more….That is exactly who we are fighting a lot of the time…”the machine” is what I call them…the big name athlete or school that has over 200 kids in their camps because of a name and not qualifications…Each time I have a parent attend a clinic we run, it is always the same response…”wow” they don’t do this at ——-‘s camp!” ….Yeah, we know. Now can you spread the word please…


  9. Rob K. says:

    I think when you are talking about an Olympic or top pro athlete becoming a coach you have a potential problem of being able to relate. AN Olympic or pro athlete is used to being the elite athlete and having to deal with the slightly overweight, perpetual benchwarmer may not be the ideal situation because that elite athlete may not have the ability to understand, relate to and thus coach that kid.
    The other thing with the elite athlete is while they have performed at the highest levels they may not be able to effectively teach what they know.
    I would prefer the athlete who has a passion for kids, a passion for passing on their love of the game and can help motivate their kids to become better athletes and better humans.

  10. Jeremy says:

    I believe it is a double-sided sword. I believe that if you have not attained some type of serious accomplishment, how can you truly train and develop someone into a champion if you haven’t been down and truly accomplished something on your own?
    If you take a look at some of the top wrestling coaches in the nation at the college level, they were all National and Olympic Champions and know the attitude, commitment, and what it takes to get there. I.E. Dan Gable: most accomplished wrestler in the U.S. and most accomplished coach in the U.S. He even said that he took from what he learned about his own competing and just applied to his coaching…
    Even Tony Dungy played DI football and made a short career in the NFL before he began coaching.
    If I want to try and make a million dollars, I am going to speak to somebody who has attained that level, and not take advice from somebody who has not.

  11. Chris says:

    I have been around water all my life….

    I have nearly 30 years experience drinking water, cooking with water, and using water to clean thousands of items…..

    Yes, I am NOT qualified to be your plummer….

    The above mindset, unfortunately, does not exists when it comes to coaching kids.

  12. CR says:

    Crazy timing. I just touched on this topic in a call with Pat the other day. You are right and I’ve fallen into the trap of doubting myself. I even had a mom not hire me to train her soccer player daughter because I wasn’t CSCS certified. Even though I have 3 different nationally recognized certs, played college soccer and have coached many young athletes. That one stung but it made me more passionate and more driven with the young athletes I have been entrusted by their parents to coach and develop. Glad you posted this reminder and reiterate the importance of letting your results, competence, passion, professionalism and trustworthiness speak louder than the initials after your name. Education and experience give you a foundation but your personality, style and ability to motivate and inspire youth to challenge their minds and bodies for a higher level of fitness is what differentiates you from the rest.

  13. Phil Hueston says:


    Several years ago I saw a phrase on running shirts at a marathon I attended (We were there because my wife, Mary Jo was an honored hero for the Leukemia Society Team in Training – if I’m going 26.2 miles, I’ll take my car, thanks). It has bearing on our mission:

    Fight the Good Fight
    Keep the Faith
    Finish the Race

    The “fight” against ignorance and the path of least resistance (and worst results) will likely never end.

    The “race” to “save” our kids from mass media, name-driven silliness MAYmay never end.

    Our faith in ourselves and our mission MUST never end. Kids are counting on us. So are parents, even when the don’t realize it.

    (Stepping down from pulpit now.)


  14. Bri, great topic for conversation and one that is addressed and dealt with, I bet, all over the country. Unfortunately we live in a society where the accolades of accomplishment = or seem to justify the ability to coach or be an expert. How untrue! Pro player doesn’t = youth coach or any coach for that matter.

    I, having coached professionals and Olympians, although they have attained the highest of high themselves, not only does NOT “qualify” them to coach the young athletes of their chosen sport /profession but in some cases these pros don’t want to, know they cannot or realize they couldn’t coach that age group – college perhaps but not youth. That’s where the IYCA comes in and has done an excellent job.

    Furthermore, when it comes to personal trainers trying to “coach” the young athlete….know your place. It is a never ending battle for top tier S&C Coaches to win over clients against the unqualified (certified in something else perhaps but stay within your scope!) where if a specific fad or niche comes along, every Tom, Dick and Harry PT will jump on board to make a buck, pulling the wool over parent’s and kid’s eyes. Shame on the parent for not doing their homework and checking the background of some of these “coaches”. And shame on that “trainer’s” ethics and professionalism. The industry is too “watered down” now…too many certifications to choose from…yes specializing is great and is needed, however, the general certification isn’t enough for you to specialize…again..stay within your scope of practice. Otherwise the next thing you’ll see is “trainers” trying to do chiropractic, massage, physical therapy etc…… Get specialized if you want to work with a specific group

    Thanks for my two cents – from one of the original “elite sports training alliance members!”

  15. Brendan Murray says:

    Let me tell you a story about a young child and coaching.
    My father was an avid supporter and a founder member of a GAA club in my home town.
    GAA or the Gaelic Athletic Association is the governing body of Gaelic Football, Ireland’s national sport.
    My father encouaged me to start playing Gaelic football by buying me a pair of football boots, and sent me along to the local team to be trained.
    But the coach never picked me to play in an actual game, because I was “no good”
    Finally, one evening the coach said to me “Have you got your football boots with you”
    I was at first excited that at last I would get a game.
    Then it turned out that the other team came short of a few players, and the coach wanted me to line out with the other team, so that we could have a game.
    That rather sickened me with Gaelic Football until over forty years later I joined my father’s GAA club, and did foundation level coaching.
    But that coach did teach me something all those years ago, and it is this.
    If a coach instils in you the belief that you are useless, after a while you begin to believe it!

  16. Reggie Eccleston says:

    As mentioned in some comments, PASSION is a key factor in success no matter what you do. We serve youth better by just helping them improve from whatever level they were previously. Even if we have have reached the mountain top, we must realize that everyone’s mountain top is different. It is there own. That makes us succesfull.

  17. Reggie Eccleston says:

    Most of us in this field have had some level of personal success. We have to remember the kids we train are not us. Some will far exceed any accomplishments we,ve had, whereas others will not. I do feel that whatever accomplishments we have made gets more people to listen, but if we are not truly passionate about giving back, then we fail and fail the kids.

  18. Brendan Murray says:

    A gimmick which is being used more and more these days is the term “Bootcamp”
    This idea of a drill sergeant type instructor screaming at the participants and “Knocking them into shape in a week or two, actually appeals to some parents.
    This is particularly so, if the child is out of condition, or overweight.
    I dislike the term “Bootcamp”
    I will state it stronger than that – I abhor it with a vengance.
    I served as a training NCO in a Training Depot of the Irish Defence Forces in Dublin for nearly 20 years, including six months in the rank of sergeant.
    I have more respect for a child than to treat that delicate organism as a recruit, to be bullied “into shape”
    I much prefer the term “Summer Camp”, or “Summer Training Camp”
    This evokes memories of the happiest, sunniest, most enjoyable season in our climate.
    Finally every child you accept, imagine the child being labelled with a warning sign – “Fragile, Handle with Care.”

  19. John Weatherly says:

    I agree with Brendan’s comments above. Kids are not mini-adults. Both psychological and growth/maturation must be considered. The ideal result is long-term physical activity. A “boot camp” mentality works against this.

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